By Jeff Lucchesi

The internet has brought us incredible changes in the way we use technology. The acceleration of new products and services to the market seem to be happening at light speed. Yet the one area which hasn’t changed much is the mistakes IT Managers and Directors make in running their operation. The mistakes I saw from the staff as a CIO are the same ones I see when I visit clients thru my role at Taos. So this note today deals with what I see are the 4 most common mistakes made by Directors and Managers today.

1) The person you are promoting is the person you should be firing. Bob is a killer network expert. He is the best firefighter you have seen and works miracles in the environment when there is trouble. You believe Bob is gold and is a hot commodity so you promote him along with a fat raise so he doesn’t go anywhere. The problem? Bob may have created the issues himself with what he implemented a year ago. He also doesn’t believe in sharing knowledge nor will he document anything. He is also the guy that goes on vacation but makes sure he is called on any problem which might come up.

The Problem: When he does quit, all hell breaks loose because the rest of the organization only has fragments of knowledge on what Bob built and how it all operates. He has left your operation limping along because of the “hero” mentality you encouraged.

The Lesson: Hiring the philosophy of the individual and understanding their approach to performing the work is as important as technical capabilities. When interviewing, ask more questions outside of the technical scorecard your team created when you hired him. If the individual isn’t into sharing info or bringing a pragmatic approach to operational support, move on. If he is already on board, be clear on the other aspects of the job you expect from them, otherwise, the person is not a fit.

2) “The builder” mentality: The company is relatively small but growing like crazy…the answer to all your problems is “hire more people!!!”.

The Problem: This may work for a while but the art of scaling an IT organization is actually to take a step back and figure out what your approach should be to scale in a way that supports the growth of the business without having over-staffed. In the infrastructure world, the more people you add the more risk of outages you create. Huh??? Yep, that’s right…the focus is to get the day to day operations working as a manufacturing process, automating the things which are repeatable and focusing on scaling. The more people in the mix, the more chances for miscommunication, breaking from process, and eventually more outages which could have been avoided

The Solution: Start using third-party partners to plug into areas which need to scale rapidly. It’s not like the ’90s where outsourcers just came in and replicated mistakes being made. They actually do know how to help you scale economically and transform the organization into highly productive operation. The art for Directors and Managers is to learn how to properly manage vendor relations. If not inside the company find mentors outside who have done it for a living because it is a skill all will need to know in their careers.

3) “It’s us against them!” Better known as the “buddy” manager. The leader takes on the role of friend and savior of his team as they try to deal with those nasty software engineers who actually are the key to your company’s success…they are building the product.

The Problem: This is a problem we see throughout companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. There are various reasons why these relationships between IT and Engineering struggle, but the approach of “trenching in” to support my guys and causing an antagonistic relationship with Engineering is eventually the recipe for failure and a quick end to a management career.

The Solution: The fine line of management comes into play here. Addressing the business objectives rather than the emotion of “they are killing my team just throwing new releases over the fence” needs to be addressed. Figure out how to build common goals and objectives with engineering management so both teams are measured the same. Look at ways with engineering to get operational fixes built into road maps for the product and team up with them. Dealing with it emotionally is a career killer.

4) Get your hands away from the keyboard.

The Problem: You most likely got your management role through an avenue of being successful as a technologist but the art of managing is not continuing to crank away configuring systems, etc. You now are becoming a mentor to the staff and learning to manage up. As a Director, you need to be spending about 50% of your time managing up or working with peers across IT and the business. As a manager approximately 25%. If you are heads down on the keyboard, constantly in the minutia, then you are not developing in your role. Again, if you need help, reach for mentors who have had success making the leap. They will be happy to share their experiences, both successes, and failures.